In movement classes the children explore the physicality of how they express themselves and how they can influence their feelings— the shapes they make with their whole bodies and the intensities with which they do this. Complimentary to the zones used in The Zones of Regulation®, the children engage in a body-based, formative approach to their emotional zones.
The children learn to recognize the physical shape of their emotional expressions and where they are on a continuum of excitement (low, medium, high, extreme). Within each zone, there is a range of three degrees of excitement as well, with a corresponding change in hue as they transition toward or away from the adjacent zones (from blue-green to green to yellow-green in the green zone with three degrees of medium excitement; and from green-yellow to yellow to red-yellow in the yellow zone with three degrees of high excitement).
The children also freeze-frame their emotional shape and vary their “in-tensity” — their inner tension. Through degrees of more or less stiffening or squeezing themselves in their emotional shape, they create shades of their inner state (for example softly alert, alert, super alert). They explore what it is like to shift their intensity and to form and transform their emotional shapes and inner state, transitioning between shades and colors within a zone and between zones. This teaches the children practical embodied skills for managing their own emotions and participating in how they act and interact with others.
Creating a Somatic Dimension for their Emotional Zones
Each zone has a color: blue zone, green zone, yellow zone, red zone. I have organized the four zones on a continuum in relation to how much physical form, excitement, and intensity the children create in themselves in each zone.
In the green zone, the children make shapes with medium amounts of excitement, intensity and form. Words to describe how the green zone feels: full, safe, quiet, content, calm, collected.
In the yellow zone, the children create high amounts of excitement, intensity and form. Words describing the yellow zone: exciting, thrilling, scary, rigid, pushing limits, forceful, taking risks, silly, frantic, crazy.
In the red zone, they fly out of control, bursting with extreme excitement. Words describing the red zone: dangerous, breaking boundaries, exhilarating, terrifying.
“What is it like to make a shape with very little form and low levels of excitement?” In class, children droop, slink, flop around.
- How heavy or light do you feel? And what is this like?
- Do you feel soft? Tired? Comfy? Restful? Bored? Tender?
- Do you sink? Slump? Collapse?
- How is it to move around the room with little form and low excitement like this?”
The children roll, ripple, slither and squiggle slowly around the floor.
- Are you dragging yourself around or oozing easily along?
- Do you flow like a trickling stream or stay still like a deep, pool of water?
- What are your boundaries like? Mushy and soft or well defined?
- What zone are you in?
The children all said when they give themselves little form with low intensity, they are in their personal blue zone.
- How might you stand up and move around in your blue zone?
- What is it like to be in your blue zone with others?
With the zones taped onto the floor, the children explore how they shape themselves and their intensities within each zone, as well as transition from one zone to the next and back.
Transitioning Between Zones
In ten counts, show me how you transition your shape from your green zone into your yellow zone.
- How do you change your shape?
- What is the level of your excitement now?
- How do you move around the room?
- What is that like?
- Thrilling? Scary? Adventurous! Risky?
Show me how you push your own limits.
- Are you an explorer venturing into new territory?
- Or are you frustrated?
To keep the group in a safe, comfortable green zone, we let two children at a time try out their red zone —extreme excitement bursting out and breaking boundaries. Without directing their red excitement toward anyone, they explore what it feels like to be in their red zone. “Powerful! Out of Control! Wild! Dangerous! Exhilerating! Terrifying!”
Personal Zone and Group Zone
The children explore their own personal zone as well as the group zone. This is particularly important for movement explorations and running games where we want to have room for kids to venture into their yellow zone to take risks, explore, push their limits while at the same time keep the group dynamic in the green zone to remain safe.
Whether we create our physical shape and intensity of our emotional bodies reflexively, habitually or intentionally, we all partake in the physical process of shaping our emotions. This exploration is not to look for the “appropriate” zone, but to recognize and influence how we physically shape ourselves in the zone we are currently in, how this affects our feelings, and how we can transition between zones.